In a statement released on Monday, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said “[s]everal recent media articles are creating misinformation and confusion in the public health arena” by “erroneously suggesting that, in working to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, WHO receives funding from the food and beverage industry,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Referring to an October 19 article by Reuters suggesting the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) had accepted money from the industry and a similar November 1 piece by Mother Jones, Chan said, “The allegations in these articles are wrong,” and she added, “When WHO works with the private sector, the organization takes all possible measures to ensure its work to develop policy and guidelines is protected from industry influence,” the news service notes (11/19).
Non Communicable Disease/Chronic Disease
WHO member states meeting in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday unanimously approved a new international treaty to combat the illegal tobacco trade, VOA News reports (11/12). “The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products commits countries to establishing, as a central measure, a global tracking and tracing system to reduce the illicit trade of tobacco products,” a WHO press release states (11/12). “I can think of no other undertaking that can make such a huge contribution to better health in every corner of the world. And that includes the health of young children and unborn babies,” WHO Executive Director Margaret Chan said at the opening of the Fifth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the U.N. News Centre reports. “Tobacco use is responsible for five million, or 12 percent, of all deaths of adults above the age of 30 globally each year — equivalent to one death every six seconds — noted a WHO mortality report released in March this year,” the news service adds (11/12).
“Doctors were at the forefront of the AIDS treatment revolution a decade ago, denouncing stigmatization and inequality from conference platforms and lobbying politicians alongside the activists,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in her “Global Health” blog, asking, “Could we see cancer doctors take up the banners and the slogans on behalf of the poorest in the same way?” She continues, “Until last weekend, I personally did not think so. But in a lakeside hotel in Lugano in Switzerland, at a meeting of the World Oncology Forum, I watched what looked like a process of radicalization take place.” She adds, “Nearly 100 of the world’s leading cancer doctors were there,” noting, “The question for discussion over a day and a half was ‘Are we winning the war on cancer?'”
“Industrial pollution is putting the health of 125 million people at risk worldwide and is as dangerous in the developing world as malaria or tuberculosis, according to a new report,” titled “2012 World’s Worst Pollution Problems,” Reuters/ABC Science reports (Allen, 10/24). According to the Guardian, the report, published on Tuesday by the Blacksmith Institute in partnership with Green Cross Switzerland, “documents, for the first time, the public health impact of industrial pollutants — lead, mercury, chromium, radionuclides and pesticides — in the air, water and soil of developing countries.”
MSH’s “Global Health Impact” blog provides a Storify summary of a Washington Post Live panel discussion on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that took place last week. The blog notes, “One year after the U.N. summit on non-communicable diseases, Washington Post Live convened experts in the NCD and public health community to engage in an in-depth, collaborative working session and analysis in front of a small group of media, fellow health experts, and policymakers” (Hassinger, 10/22). The Washington Post provides video highlights from the discussion (10/17).
PAHO Press Release Responds To Reuters Article, Says Private Sector Not Involved In Decision-Making Processes
“The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) strongly disagrees with the allegations in the recent Reuters article that the food and beverage industry advises our policymaking” with respect to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the agency said in a press release on Saturday. “In line with PAHO Member States mandates and the Declaration of the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases held in New York in September 2011, PAHO adheres to a comprehensive approach to fight NCDs, which includes governments, civil society, academia, international organizations, and private sector,” the press release states, adding, “The goal is to work together to raise awareness, promote new and innovative initiatives, and share best practices on the prevention and control of NCDs, as well as in health promotion and behavioral changes.” The press release describes how PAHO works to “manage potential conflicts of interest and ensure transparency and independence in the Organization’s decision-making process,” and the release states, “Private companies are not involved in health policies formulation or in decision-making processes of the Organization” (10/20).
To fight chronic “diseases in Mexico, the nation with the world’s highest rate of obese and overweight adults, a Reuters investigation found that WHO’s regional office has turned to the very companies whose sugary drinks and salty foods are linked to many of the maladies it’s trying to prevent,” the news service reports. “The office, the Pan American Health Organization, not only is relying on the food and beverage industry for advice on how to fight obesity,” but, “[f]or the first time in its 110-year history, it has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in money from the industry,” Reuters writes.
Using data from cancer registries worldwide, researchers from the International Agency for Cancer Research (IACR) found that 169.3 million years of healthy life were lost to cancer in 2008, according to a study published on Tuesday in the Lancet, HealthDay News reports. Using “a measure called disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) to assess not only the impact of fatal cancer, but also the effects of disabilities among cancer survivors,” the researchers also found men in Eastern Europe and women in sub-Saharan Africa had the largest cancer burden worldwide; increased access to treatment has not improved survival outcomes for several common cancers; and lower-income countries have higher average levels of premature death due to cancer, while higher-income countries have higher average levels of cancer-related disability and impairment, according to the news service. Study co-author Freddie Bray, deputy head of the IARC Cancer Information Section, said in a Lancet press release, “Our findings illustrate quite starkly how cancer is already a barrier to sustainable development in many of the poorest countries across the world and this will only be exacerbated in the coming years if cancer control is neglected,” the news service notes (10/15).
Report Finds Tobacco Use Resulted In 6M Deaths In 2011; Russia To Consider Nationwide Smoking Restrictions
“Tobacco use led to almost six million deaths in 2011, according to new research released … on Monday, of which nearly 80 percent were in low- and middle-income countries,” Inter Press Service reports. “Such trends, fueled by tobacco industry tactics, are having a ‘devastating’ impact on the global economy, health and development,” according to the “Tobacco Atlas,” which tracks tobacco use worldwide, the news service writes, noting, “Overall, a billion people are expected to die due to tobacco use over the course of the 21st century” (Biron, 10/15).
“Wednesday (October 10th) is World Mental Health Day,” VOA News reports, noting, “The World Health Organization is using the occasion to call for an end to stigma against those who suffer from depression and other mental disorders” (DeCapua, 10/9). Depression affects 350 million people worldwide, with nearly five percent of the world’s population suffering from depression annually, according to Medical Daily (Tucker, 10/9). More than three-quarters of people living with mental health disorders reside in developing countries, BBC News notes, adding, “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), eight in every 10 of those living in developing nations receive no treatment at all” (Roberts, 10/10). The WHO “warns stigma is a huge problem that prevents many people from seeking help,” VOA writes (10/9).